Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Govt signals child care system overhaul

The Government has accepted all the recommendations of the Ministerial Advisory Board set up to provide advice on how to fix the child care and protection system, Minister Kelvin Davis has today announced.

The recommendations included:

  • Decision making and resources to be shifted to communities, with children and whānau at the centre of the system;
  • A new operating model, with better support and training for social workers;
  • Without notice orders (uplifts) to be only used after proper engagement with whānau.

Mr Davis said the changes will see a major shift in decision making and resources at a local level, empowering communities to work together with Oranga Tamariki in the prevention of harm against children.

Oranga Tamariki has also been given a clear direction that uplifts, or without notice orders, should only be used as a last resort, he said.

“This report will end uplifts as we have known them. While there will always be a need for some children to be taken into care, this should only happen after all avenues with community and whanau have been exhausted.”

“Community-led prevention is the biggest thing for me from this report – our communities have the answers and Oranga Tamariki needs to work with them to stop children entering into care,” the Minister said.

The Board was set up earlier this year after a number of reviews and inquiries into the conduct of Oranga Tamariki.

It was unable to provide assurance that the operating model and practices of Oranga Tamariki are fit for purpose. Therefore, the Government has accepted all its recommendations, Minister Davis said.

“When I appointed the Board, I asked it to get to the root of the problems with Oranga Tamariki and be completely honest with me about what it found.”

“What they provided was a confronting yet powerful report and I am pleased to say the Government has accepted all their recommendations. From the outset of my time as Minister I have been committed to fixing the child protection system and these changes will go a long way towards doing that,” Mr Davis said.

He said the agency’s failures had been well documented, including traumatic uplifts, poor relationships with Māori and social workers under pressure.

“There will always be a role for the state in the protection of our most vulnerable children, but the approach taken to date has placed the state at the centre,” Mr Davis said.

“This has undermined the ability of communities to ensure the wellbeing of children and their whānau. Our people often know what’s best and need to be empowered to lead these decisions locally.”

To ensure these changes are implemented, an Action Plan aligned to the themes of the recommendations has been developed, with an independent Governance Board established to ensure progress remains on track, the Minister said.

“It is important to acknowledge the demanding and difficult work undertaken by Oranga Tamariki staff, much of which went unseen by the public and has been done in a system that provided inadequate support.”

“The new direction for Oranga Tamariki has been set. A plan has been put in place for change and alongside the members of my Ministerial Advisory Board and the leadership of Oranga Tamariki we are going to change the system.

“I want Oranga Tamariki to be the enabler that allows the regions to decide what is right for their particular area. To empower communities and Māori to help children and their families in a way that works for them,” said Mr Davis.

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